I honestly didn't expect to have to write one of these again—I figured that, historically, after an egregious misstep in interacting with your trans child, a fairly large amount of time elapses before another one occurs. I had expected that I would move out before you made the next one, and so assumed that I was done writing these.

But evidently, I am not moved out. And I am not done writing these.

I will begin, like last time, by celebrating the successes and progresses you have achieved. You have learned how to correct yourselves after misgendering me with tact. This change alone has made living in this house feel significantly more safe. You respect the amount that I have struggled (and continue to struggle) each day to present in a way that makes me feel good, while balancing a torrent of both irrational fears and more tangible danger: the sudden fear of needles that I spontaneously developed, and the exhausting weekly battle to overcome it; the world of discrimination I have entered that is, at best, misogynist, and at worst, violently transphobic; and many other things that you may not truly, personally understand, but that you trust are as difficult for me as I say. You continue to offer support—in food, shelter, and the like—and do so especially when I am having a hard time (I truly appreciated having xiaolongbao a few days ago when things were particularly bad). Regardless of any shortcomings, these things warrant recognition, especially against the backdrop of my numerous trans friends without a home to go back to at all.

With all of that being said, let's talk about Chanukah—and not just the fact that I was not present at the celebration, which I was completely prepared for and comfortable with—but about how you responded to the suggestion that I was perhaps not truly "invited and welcome."

In many of these types of discussions—across race, sexuality, and gender—the most challenging thing is to get past the urge to defend and justify something uncomfortable (in racial contexts, you've probably heard this named: white fragility). In this most recent discussion, rather than listen to the factors that made my invitation to this family event void, there was disagreement over whether or not my invitation actually *was* void.

Nine months ago, these tendencies were not exceptions—they were simply how you responded to this type of uncomfortable situation. In fact, on March 6th, the first day of the nearly two-month period during which I had no contact with you, you may recall the exact conflict that sparked the beginning of that silent treatment: a decision where you came to my sleeping area—which has no doors and no lock—and, after some discussion, stated that you disagreed with my experiences with gender and identity. When it became clear that you were not trying to listen, but rather trying to defend a position, I decided to end the conversation. I told you to leave.

You refused.

I had never felt so assaulted. A space with no doors to close, no dividers to put up, with a person trying to tell me that my experience as a trans person doesn't align with their cisgender view of the world. And they will not leave. I screamed until you did.

When I finished my appointment in Patchogue, much later, I decided that I would engage you once more. I had, in my mind, three possible outcomes at the beginning of no contact, which I shared with you that day:

  1. You do research, and educate yourselves on how to be a better parent to a trans child. This is the optimal outcome.
  2. You don't do research. I educate you. This does not necessarily teach you how to be good parents to a trans child, because it does not leave you in a position where you are likely to learn on your own. Each time there is a misstep, a correction and education is issued, and you learn by stumbling.
  3. You don't do research. You refuse to be educated. We never speak again.

When I shared these outcomes with you on that day, I explained that we had arrived at outcome number two. I had given you nearly two months to educate yourselves, and you had done nothing with it. But I didn't want to have zero- communication forever—that outcome was third in the list for obvious reasons. So here we were.

I believe, when I first spoke to you again, among the first things I shared was something that needed to be understood for anything else to stick. I said:

"This is not a conversation. This is an education."

As long as this was understood, we would not fall into the third case. As long as you were not refusing to be educated, as long as I was willing to endure the frustration of you "learning by stumbling" (which I was, because I love you and want you in my life), then we would be able to have contact.

It seemed like this was understood well enough at the time.

All sorts of mistakes have been made since then (stumbling), but only a few have been so egregious that they might be categorized as a refusal to be educated. Those are the mistakes that are most serious, and which have resulted in letters like these.

Last time, it was a result of an outright refusal to listen to my experience with name systems while we were trying to plan a vaccine appointment. You described the steps that were required to deal with this appointment as "extra work," and said that if I needed the appointment handled in a special way, I was to make that appointment myself. You disagreed that these steps were required. In case you've forgotten the details or would otherwise like to refresh your memory, the link to the letter that resulted is below.


The key problem here, again, is a refusal to be educated. To reiterate: in an ideal world, you do research on your own and immerse yourself in trans communities and thinkers. In the next best world (the world which we currently inhabit), I educate you each time you make a mistake. And in the worst world, you refuse education outright.

You refused to listen to why my invitation to the Chanukah celebration was void. You instead grew defensive—no, I was wrong, I *had* been invited! How could I have missed something so obvious, so fundamentally true?

I would like to take this opportunity to explain to you why my invitation was void.

As a reminder, the invitation was extended like this (dialogue labeled with Y for you and R for Riley):

Y: "Will you be going to the thing on Saturday?"

R: "Mm, now that Rachel's not going, I'm not sure."

Y: "Well, you're cetainly welcome. I do want to remind you that you will almost certainly be misgendered and deadnamed."

R: "...yes, I know."

Y: "Okay, well, let us know what you're thinking. If you know for sure, one way or the other, it's helpful because it affects what food we order."

R: "I'm leaning towards no, but I definitely need to think about it.

Y: "Okay. Just wanted to make sure you felt invited."

R: "..."

At this moment, I paused. I was unsure whether this was worth addressing. I am constantly choosing my battles. It did not seem productive to engage you about this. But something about that rubbed me in a way that made it hard to ignore, and against my better judgment, I spoke:

R: "...you do see how that doesn't really make me invited, right?"

As I try to unpack what, specifically, about "just wanted to make sure you felt invited" was so upsetting, I can't help but feel that it's about "burden."

I carry the weight that comes with the knowledge that these family gatherings may include "deadnaming and misgendering." I make choices according to the weight I carry. In clarifying that my invitation was void, I was attempting to share that weight with you—to somehow lessen that burden. To make sure that you understood that I was unwelcome, and perhaps carry some of the difficulty that comes with knowing that someone was unwelcome.

"Just wanted to make you feel invited" is a statement of absolving responsibility; it says, "I tried to invite you and you said no. I shed this responsibility; I relieve myself of this burden. If you wanted to come, you could have simply said yes."

Except that I could not have simply said yes. I hope that this has been established by now, but just in case it hasn't, attending this celebration would lead to me getting "misgendered and deadnamed." This is not a space that I can be in. Offloading that burden to me, as something that I alone am responsible for by declining to come, rather than sharing this burden, and perhaps recognizing the myriad of factors and people that are truly responsible for my inability to attend... doesn't feel fair to me.

You cannot simply extend an invitation and assume that it is valid. It is like inviting someone poor to a fancy restaurant, and offering to split the bill. This is no invitation. They cannot afford that bill. They cannot attend. The invitation is void.

Perhaps the origin of your disagreement is semantics: the feeling that the invitation was extended, and therefore stands as a fundamentally valid invitation. While I hope the above has demonstrated that this is a silly concept of validity, I cannot know for sure if this is even the cause of your disagreement, because you refused to be educated and I could not ask you about these details.

If you wanted to extend a true invitation, you could offer to "foot the bill" per our earlier analogy. This could take many forms—for example, offering to have a discussion with the most problematic members of the family in advance of the gathering, reducing the odds that something awful is said or done. This would be truly thoughtful, and would be something that I would describe as "above and beyond"—I was not expecting to attend, and taking an action like this might have enabled me to come. It is above and beyond because I do not expect you to foot the bill. It's an incredibly kind gesture that might enable me to attend, but it's not expected.

More typical—more within expectation—is the void invitation. While still somewhat upsetting, it is well within the norms of my life (just as the poor is well-accustomed to declining invitations from affluent friends to fancy meals). We know the invitation is well-meaning, and we leave it at that.

But truly angering is to play pretend—to act as if this invitation is something that I could actually make use of. When I spoke up, it was because I didn't want to pretend. That went about as well as you would expect—you can perhaps imagine how rich people might respond, were they called out for inviting someone to dinner who they *know* wouldn't be able to afford to come. They tried to do a nice thing, and upon being confronted with the ugly truth—that their nice thing was void and that more would need to be done for this invitation to hold any merit—they lash out. No, they say, we invited you! If you wanted to come, you should have simply said yes.

Does this make sense?

Perhaps I should've bitten my tongue, and allowed the facade to stand. I hope you understand why I found it so hard to do so.

This invitation was void. I will not allow you to feel like you've made me included by extending an invitation that I could not accept. You do not have to make me feel included—once again, that's above and beyond. But we will not pretend that an "all are welcome here" sign is sufficient to actually invite everyone in. There is hard work to be done if we want those invitations to be true.